Terrorism is a fact of modern life. On one level, it cannot be understood; it is difficult to empathize with those who have no empathy of their own and cause enormous suffering in the name of their own beliefs. On another level, however, there are components of terrorism that can be understood -- their tactics and methods, their choice of targets and more. Because terrorism is aimed at entire societies, and is carried out in a guerrilla fashion, it is necessary to develop tactics for deterring terrorism that address terrorism's wide and deep sources, tactics and effects.
Terrorism has been a fact of life for 200 years, since the French Revolution. At that time, Cottam et al. (2004) suggest that the rise of the nation-state made it more possible than ever before for individuals to want to maintain identities that were very like those of their community; in short, the rise of the nation-state created a us-against-them mentality that might not have developed, particularly in Europe, had the region remained one of minor principalities and myriad small 'states' that had neither the wherewithal nor the inclination to war with each other.
Once the nation-state had come into existence, however, there was also room within each nation-state for those who wanted different things than the majority of citizens. Even in the United States, founded on principles of freedom of belief and speech, there are those whose beliefs differ from those of the majority and who are not satisfied merely to be able to express those beliefs; rather, they wish to alter the beliefs -- or at least the behavior -- of the majority by force if necessary. This explains the activities of the militias, the Ku Klux Klan, Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber and so forth. Regarding the Middle East, Islamic fanatics wish to force other Moslems and, of course, infidels to accept their way of thinking and living. In many Middle Eastern nations, there is nowhere near the sort of freedom of thought, religion, expression and lifestyle that exists as a matter of course in Western nations. Thus, because of the oppression at home, it is easy for Islamic extremist leaders to attract disaffected recruits, and perhaps easier still for them to paint the 'enemy' as an outsider -- the West -- rather than acknowledging the possibility that the 'enemy' is found in the repressive regimes of the Middle East (Maoz, 1995).
Specific Areas of Concern
Training techniques commonly used by terrorists
As early as the mid-1990s, the United States Marine Corps was asking if there was in fact such a thing as a worldwide terrorist training organization. During the 1960s, the Soviet Union and its satellites had provided such training in their efforts to destabilize Western governments (Smith, 1995). When that nation destabilized and broke into its many component parts, nations such as Iran and Syria trained terrorists in order to advance their own political agendas; the Provisional Irish Republican Army did, also (Smith, 1995).
Training of terrorists, no matter where in the modern world it is found, follows the definition used in United States Code Title 22, Section 2656: premeditated politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an Audience" (Smith, 1995).
Many modern terrorists are born of privileged families, but they are raised in nations such as North Korea, in which conditioning to despite and attempt to wound an 'enemy' is a fact of life (MacDonald, p. 46). One, involved in the destruction of KAL Flight 858 in 1987 was selected for agent training because of her memory and facility with languages. After being selected, she was isolated from family and friends and other students; daily instruction in small arms use, languages, codes and communications commenced. Intense physical training was also part of her program, and she claimed she could swim two kilometers and run 40 kilometers over uneven terrain in the dark (Smith, 1995).
This agent was also trained in kidnapping, assassination, marksmanship, bombing and agitation (Smith, 1995). She also was trained in professional espionage, photography and clandestine communications, as well as receiving specialized explosives training.
While this North Korean agent's training was extensive, a book called "Handbook of Urban Guerrilla Warfare" encouraged physical training and manual skills training, as well as training to a mastery level in small arms and explosives.
Within all this training, the author of the handbook believed that explosives training is paramount. According to Smith (1995):
Substantial instruction is required to construct anything more complicated than the most fundamental explosive weapon. Use of components such as mercury tilt fuses (common to car bombs), remotely controlled, and electromagnetic firing devices must be taught by experts to students already well versed in, and confident working with, explosives.
Firearms training is also essential, and additional training often includes document falsification, methods of surveillance, disguise, communications jamming and security system evaluation (Smith, 1995).
Terrorist tactics to gain community compliance
Block noted that terrorist factions must wage "asymmetric warfare" against powerful nations and to do so, they must concentrate on the Use of "unconventional (and affordable) weapons and tactics, ranging from traditional guerrilla fighting to the deployment of new weapons of mass destruction. Ironically, the supremacy in conventional weaponry established by the U.S. -- and demonstrated to lethal effect during the 1991 Gulf War -- has made asymmetric warfare all the more attractive. Figuring prominently in the arsenal of asymmetric warfare are both biological and chemical weapons" (Block 2001, p. 28), in many respects the perfect ones to use in gaining community control through terror.
Particularly useful are such biological weapons as bubonic plague and anthrax. Block notes that the ancient Romans threw carrion into wells to poison enemies' drinking water. "In the 14th century the Tatars catapulted the bodies of bubonic plague victims over the city walls of Kaffa, a Black Sea port that served as a gateway to the Silk Road trade route" (Block 2001 p. 28). Anthrax is less communicable than the plague, but because of modern media, as was obvious from the panic after the anthrax scare in 2001, it is clear that the threat of disease is probably the best tactic to use to keep a target population under control through fear.
Additional diseases that have been used and/or considered by terrorists to achieve community control include smallpox and botulinum poisoning (Alibek and Handelman, 1999).
Coates offers a list of other potential mechanisms terrorists might use to control populations in the United States; this list includes:
Installing panic, whether with real or 'fake' germs, etc.
Deploying radioactive dust
Deploying deadly chemicals
Poisoning the air
Silencing Washington, D.C.
Disrupting Internet servers
Infecting pets (and one might assume, farm animals)
Targeting cruise ships (2002)
Terrorist tactics in target selection
Coates proposed that three goals underlie terrorism, and these contribute to target choices. One goal is to demonstrate that an 'enemy government is unable to protect its citizens, particularly when those citizens are doing ordinary things such as shopping or going to school or work. A second goal is to evoke and extreme response, so extreme, preferably, that the target will appear to be a greater 'terrorist' than the original terror group. That in turn leads to the third goal, recruiting more converts by evoking sympathy for the terrorists' cause or "by generating hostility toward a government or its policies" (Coates, 2002, p. 23+).
In order to advance these goals, the targets chosen must preferably be one with tremendous symbolic significance. "In the case of international terrorism, something highly symbolic like the World Trade Center's twin towers is important because it will be a national symbol and it will be well understood globally" (Coates, 2002, p. 23+).
Additional considerations, not mentioned by Coates but obvious all the same, are these: the target must be accessible for delivery of the sort of weapon chosen, and, except in the case of suicide bombings or other suicide missions, the perpetrators must have a good chance of exiting without capture. The target must also be self-contained regarding 'spill' of the damage. When the plague bodies were thrown into cities, rats also were infected, carrying the disease far beyond the limits of the 'enemy' population; this same sort of effect might occur with smallpox or radioactive releases into the atmosphere, for example.
Technologies effective in fighting terrorism
Electronic surveillance technologies are currently the chief ones used in fighting terrorism; allied with sophisticated and safe communications, they can be of enormous help. Microwave, laser and fiber-optic technologies and their spin-offs have extended surveillance arts.
The drawback is curbing occasional abuses of technology; some nations use the current inability to perfectly protect communications and data in cyberspace as reasons not to contribute to anti-terrorism efforts (Crawshaw, 1989).
Perhaps the most interesting newer technology that can aid in the war on terror is biometrics. Some politicians in the Phillippines are already pushing to institute a national identification (ID) ca system based on biometrics and other technologies that would make…